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The Fall Of Socialism Essay

3223 words - 13 pages

The Fall of Socialism

Ever since the Great Depression, political and economic thought in America has moved consistently to the right, enough that reforms which passed years ago in other industrialized countries cannot even be mentioned in political discussion. In fact, there is a deliberate destruction of legitimate thought by equating it with a universal evil. Specifically, any reform which helps the lower classes - reforms such as welfare, universal health care, housing, and so forth ? are vilified as a socialist, and therefore communist, evil.

For years, the system was far different. Starting early in the Industrial Revolution, and climaxing in the Great Depression, the labor movement made a sustained effort to effect economic change in the United States ? putting in place such systems as Welfare and Social Security, while ending child labor and organizing unions to campaign for a 40 hour workweek and minimum wage. Even a brief glance at America before World War Two shows how truly diverse political discourse can be. Labor unions flourished and socialism was actively fostered by such magazines as Masses and the Liberator: "No humane and sensitive artist can assent to this vast Roman orgy of commercialism, this wholesale prostitution of the mind, this vast empire of cheapness and shallowness and hypocrisy that forms the current America" (Gold, 69).

Furthermore, in popular culture, celebrities spoke unabashedly of communist politics. Woodie Guthrie, for instance, celebrated labor victories in his works, spread communist philosophy, and even slipped communist lyrics into his most popular song, This Land is Your Land:

As I went walking, I saw a sign there;
And on the sign there, It said, 'PRIVATE PROPERTY.'
But on the other side, It didn't say nothing.
That side was made for you and me.

Those lyrics were soon omitted, and the song became a simple, idealistic patriotic tune played at Independence Day parades. Guthrie describes some of his songs: "The folks all around the world have been fighting now for a hundred centuries to all be union and to all be free and I sing the songs that tell you about that. I tell you about the hired thugs and the hired sluggers and the gas-bomb deputies" (Guthrie 305). Imagine a modern artist expressing such sentiments, and still maintaining pop culture success! The Dixie Chicks dared to criticize the war in Iraq, and were despised by Republicans (and even moderates) across America. If they espoused a communist philosophy, they probably would have been run out of the country.

Contrast that with the post-war period. How many socialist or other liberal economic movements come to mind? How many liberal reforms were passed? There was the GI Bill, but conservatives have always supported the military. In fact, the lone pillar of economic reform is Lyndon Johnson's Great Society of the 1960s- especially the Economic Opportunity Act and the Social Security Act. These two acts established numerous...

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